Will the Broncos Make the Playoffs? Second Straight Prime-Time Comeback Boosts Denver’s Stock

Once 1-5, the Denver Broncos appeared to be nearing the title of league's worst. But now they're gunning for a new title: wildcard playoff team.

Six teams in NFL history have made the postseason after starting out 0-3.

Have the Denver Broncos just positioned themselves to become the seventh? Following a nail-biting 21-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football, things are starting to trek that way in the Rocky Mountains.

Cortland Sutton’s Go-Ahead Touchdown Elevates Denver Broncos’ Playoff Hopes

Before the Sunday Night Football showdown, many across the NFL world believed that the Broncos would need a leap of faith to land in the postseason. Especially after beginning the year with three straight losses and once sitting at 1-5.

Well, this leap by Courtland Sutton helped elevate the Broncos’ playoff hopes.

Sutton snatched that lob with less than 1:10 to play in Denver. And he had to use the 35.5″ vertical jump he once delivered during his NFL Scouting Combine appearance to haul in that crucial touchdown. It marks two straight weeks Sutton showed tremendous poise in lifting the Broncos.

“Having the faith and the confidence that our teammates have in each other, I love this team,” Sutton said afterward on SNF. “We get our backs to the wall, and all we do is keep fighting, keep throwing punches and keep swinging.

Broncos Defense Has Produced Turnaround Results in Winning Streak

Meanwhile, this defense is looking nothing like the one that allowed 70 to the Miami Dolphins during the 0-3 start.

MORE: Week 12 NFL Power Rankings

Facing the feel-good story that is Joshua Dobbs, the Broncos frustrated him with two sacks, an interception, and three fumbles — losing one of them. Denver’s defense, spearheaded by former head coach Vance Joseph, dialed up the pressure one more time on the final drive, forcing a critical intentional grounding call that set up fourth down.

Furthermore, the Broncos forced an Alexander Mattison fumble. Josey Jewell and Ja’Quan McMillian pounced on the loose footballs for Denver. McMillian, once an undrafted free agent after the 2022 NFL Draft, also grabbed the Dobbs interception.

Since that infamous Week 3 defensive performance, only one opponent has dropped 30 or more on this Broncos defense (New York Jets in their 31-21 win on Oct. 8). And after the South Beach debacle, Denver has reignited on defense with the following results:

  • The Broncos have since allowed an average of 20.85 points per game after surrendering 40.6 PPG during the 0-3 start.
  • Included in this span, Denver has held the Super Bowl defending champion Kansas City Chiefs to a combined 28 points over two games.
  • After only getting four sacks in the first three games (all in Week 2 versus the Washington Commanders), the Broncos have produced a multi-sack performance in five of their last seven games.
  • Lastly, Denver hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer since Oct. 8 — one month and 11 days ago, as of SNF.

This time, Dobbs was held to 221 passing yards and was the lone Viking to score multiple touchdowns, one with his legs.

“Our defense played their butts off,” Sutton said on the SNF postgame.

Head coach Sean Payton described it as a crazy game in a lot of ways, but said, “It was good for us to come out of it with a win,” in his postgame presser. “Proud of our fight.”

How Do the Broncos Playoff Hopes Look?

Denver has overcome one test: fighting through the adversity of a slow start.

Next test? five of the six teams left on the Broncos’ schedule are still fighting for a playoff spot.

Of those six, though, the 4-6 Los Angeles Chargers — who the Broncos will play twice — are still alive in the playoff race but are beginning to lose ground after their Sunday loss in Green Bay.

Denver has a big one looming next: The Cleveland Browns, now 7-3, are arriving next to Empower Field at Mile High. Following that is a crucial road trip to the 6-4 Houston Texans. There’s another tough road game on Dec. 17 versus the Detroit Lions, who are now 8-2.

But with two games against the struggling Chargers and the 2-8 New England Patriots still on deck, Denver could be in a position for at least eight victories. And, stunning one of the aforementioned teams will further increase their Wild Card chances.

The 2018 Texans represent the last team to start 0-3 and reach the playoffs. The 2023 Broncos are now seven games away from possibly becoming No. 7.

From the current NFL standings to team depth charts to coverage of every game in the 18-week NFL schedule, we have all the news from around the league to keep you up to speed!

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